‘Tis the season for NFL rumors, as there’s still over two months to go until free agency and we haven’t even reached the scouting combine. However, we still find ourselves scrolling through twitter for possible truths (and dismissing what we think is utter nonsense) in hopes that we don’t miss a single nugget of accurate information about Jon Gruden’s plans to improve personnel. That way, ya know, they can get to where the Kansas City Chiefs are now: Super Bowl Champions.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, the morning of the big game was interesting in an all different way for Raider Nation. ESPN’s trusted NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the Las Vegas Raiders are targeting quarterback Tom Brady if he’s still available when free agency rolls around.
“Raiders to pursue Brady”… wait, what? That’s not a rumor that you hear every year, especially from someone as high-profile as Schefter.
We all know the history, why it’s strange, all of that. But I’m going to tuck that away for now and try to assess the topic without emotion . . .
To me, the Raiders’ interest from a short-term perspective makes perfect sense. Brady would bring the veteran fire that Gruden seems to adore (and then some). His championship pedigree, leadership and work ethic would be a positive in the locker room and likely beneficial when it comes to attracting free agents.
While Brady would need to learn the terminology and playbook of a new offense, he’d likely get acclimated much faster than your average free agent. Plus, he doesn’t strike me as the type of guy to shy away from a challenge — as I’m sure he’d get as obsessed about the playbook as ole’ Chucky. The dynamic between coach and QB, challenging each other in ways the other hasn’t experienced throughout the years… THAT is what makes this hypothetical very interesting. Maybe it’d rejuvenate Brady, for a little while at least.
That relationship with Gruden, paired with the stellar capability of an offensive line that includes Brady’s former teammate, Trent Brown, are the two biggest football reasons this could work. Tom Cable’s unit gave up only 29 sacks in 523 pass attempts in 2019, so the 43-year old would have time in the pocket to scan the field and make his throws.
Those throws would go to some up-and-coming players.
Brady has proven success with capable tight ends, so the duo of Darren Waller and Foster Moreau is a big plus. Waller is fresh off a 1,000-yard season and Moreau finished second on the team with five touchdown receptions. Hunter Renfrow could check the Wes Welker, Julian Edelman box, as Brady has always favored nifty, shifty, reliable slot wide receivers in critical moments. Hunter had 490 yards and four touchdowns in his final seven games. The third-down clutch gene is apparent #ThirdAndRenfrow.
Beyond Renfrow and Tyrell Williams, the wide receiving corps needs more talent and speed. However, Las Vegas has cap space and two first-round picks in a WR heavy draft class to take care of that if it’s a deal breaker.
To top it all off, Brady would have an elite running back in Josh Jacobs and a brand-spankin’ new stadium in a city that seems more than excited to welcome the silver and black to town.
If that’s not enough, there’s always money.
It was reported that the Patriots wanted to offer Brady $30 million per year to stay in New England. Whoever hauls him in will likely need to hit that number, or close to it. The Raiders can absolutely make that happen, as you’d assume it’d mean the departure of current quarterback Derek Carr, whose contract and ability combination shouldn’t be difficult to trade away if that’s how this shakes out.
Now that we discussed the short-term benefits from a Raiders perspective, what about the long-term?
Once again, it could make sense. They could sign Brady and then draft - for example - Jordan Love. They’d theoretically try to “win-now” with Brady, while developing Love as the future QB behind one of the best players to ever play the position.
Some may say, “Carr is younger, why trade him for Brady when he’s old and not the future”. But… is Carr the future? Maybe Gruden doesn’t think so. If he doesn’t, I don’t have an issue with Brady as the short-term guy as long as they have a long-term plan to go with it.
Beyond all of that, there’s a really good chance that this never happens. Brady could stay with the Patriots. He could go to a team that he views has more potential than the Raiders (or to a team that doesn’t play the Chiefs twice every year). Maybe he shocks the world and retires. The possibilities are endless.
My opinion: If Tom Brady wants to be a Las Vegas Raider, he’ll be one.
The fact that this is a topic of discussion says more about one player than any other:
The Schefter report indicates that Gruden and GM Mike Mayock may not be as sold on Carr as some of his loyal supporters may think.
The question is, will they find what they’re looking for?
That’s certainly not a guarantee. That was likely the case last off-season, as Gruden preferred what he had in-house and decided to give it another year. That same scenario could happen again… or they could snag Brady, draft a high-upside gunslinger in the draft and trade Carr to Tampa Bay.
Who knows, man.
I’ll end it with this - If Carr happens to get a third season with Gruden in 2020 and wants to put to rest any doubt that he should be the future franchise quarterback, I think he needs to be more of a game changer when they need him most. There’s always going to be injuries to certain position groups, there’s always going to be excuses for why you couldn’t play your best, but as the highest paid player (at the most important position) you have to lift your team up and show more competitive fight in difficult situations, especially when the season is on the line. It’s not all on him, but he’s thrown just 62 touchdowns in his last 47 games. I’d assume that weighs heavily on Gruden’s mind.